Kenya Post? 6 Months Later.

A little over six months ago, I returned from a missions trip to Kenya. (If you want to hear about those adventures, here is a link to those posts). And a lot has happened since then. I started college and survived my first semester. I went to my first Quiz practice as a coach. I Quizmastered my first tournament. I made my first college best friend. I ate my first exotic meat (although to be fair, I did that while I was on the trip. But that, plus the kissing of a giraffe, are pretty noteworthy). I got my wisdom teeth removed. I discovered the first romantic chick flick I didn’t actually completely hate. And, I experienced my first true emotional roller coaster of pain. However, more important than any of that, and more painful than the previously mentioned pain, is the roller coaster I’ve been on since I returned.

Okay- here’s a little back story into my life. I have always been a person who loves serving. I believe that God has given me the gift of service and the ability to serve with a joyful, willing, loving heart. And, before I went to Kenya, I was using this gift in whatever ways I knew how. I was volunteering with Kids’ Ministry programs at my church, serving at fundraisers for missions trips I myself wasn’t going on, teaching Economics to kids at a local elementary school, and helping with various projects at my church when, and if, I was needed. I was doing what I felt needed to be done with the skills and abilities I felt I had to do it. I was satisfied doing what I was doing. Until I went to Kenya.

If you read my last Kenya post, you’d know about some of the things that God revealed in and about me while I was in Kenya and upon my return. If you haven’t read it, you should. But, what you don’t know, whether you’ve read that post or not, is what I have done, what has happened, and how I have felt since then.

Since returning, I have started college. In one of my classes, we read a book and talked about the slavery that exists all over the world- even to this day. And it broke my heart, hearing all the stories of all these people- primarily females- who have been forced into labor and oppression. And while these conversations didn’t make me think about Kenya specifically, they did make me think. They made me think about my “I want to change the world” attitude. They made my heart ache for the people affected. And, they made me wonder if there is more I have been called to do.

I’ve been involved a little on campus with some anti human trafficking things, and I’m helping in whatever ways I know how. However, as I said before, I have an “I want to change the entire world” attitude, and I never quite felt like I was doing enough. And, recently, there have been so many things happening that have been making me question where to go and what to do. We had Free Methodist missionaries come to one of our classes and talk to us about their work. We had a chapel speaker from Compassion International come. And all the things they talked about- all the situations they’re dealing with and injustices they’re fighting made my heart hurt.

So, now here I am. Looking at old photos from my short lived trip to Kenya. Thinking about everything God has said to me and shown me since coming home. Wondering if I am in the right place doing the right thing. Because, here’s the thing, I love Chemistry- I do. But, I also feel this huge pull to do something more. I’ve gone in circles, asking myself if there is a good reason to be here doing what I’m doing now, if there are better reasons not to, or if there is even any reason to think about all the reasons.

I left a piece of myself in Kenya. And the further into my past it gets, the more I forget so many of the once so fresh memories, and the more I feel the ache of that missing piece of me. I look at the photos from my trip, trying to piece together the missing pieces of the story and of my heart. But, I can’t. All I want to do is hop on a plane and go back. But not just to Kenya. I want to go anywhere and everywhere possible. But it’s also difficult, because I don’t know where to go and who to help, because I can’t help everyone everywhere.  And I also want to stay here and continue my education and pursue my love for learning, and for Chemistry.

And so, where do I stand in the midst of all this questioning? Well, somewhere between super gluing my feet to the floor and impulsively buying plane tickets to Kenya. I’ve done everything from convincing myself to stay here and get my bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate, settling down and waiting to see if I am given an opportunity to return, to trying to adopt a Kenyan child and almost crying because adoptions are closed from Kenya to the US. (And then I remembered that I’m like 12 and am not actually ready to adopt a child yet, so that doesn’t matter). Really, I’m trusting God and trying to listen to what He is calling me to do and where He is calling me to go. I’m praying and reading and listening and searching. Searching for my place. I’m searching for what God has called me to do, to study, to be, and to go. And searching for that piece of me I’ll never find but one day hope to fill.

“If home’s where my heart is then I’m out of place.” Mercyme- Homesick

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It Is Well

Boppa Guy, as you were known, in order keep our two grandfathers straight, it’s been 11 years to the day. 11 years since you last smiled, and, although I wasn’t there, I know you were smiling, even as you were dying, because that’s who you were. It’s been 11 years since you went home- a place that you never felt was here on earth. And while I can’t believe it’s been 11 years, it’s even harder for me to believe why today it hurts more than it has in years. Why it hurts not nearly as much as 11 years ago, but at least as much as it has since.

I still remember the day it happened. Or, at least I remember the moment I found out. It was a Wednesday night. I remember my dad calling my sisters and me into his room. He had gone to visit you earlier that evening and had returned about the same time we had returned from church. We sat on his bed, knowing what he was going to say, yet hoping he wouldn’t say it. Because, although we were young, the oldest of us just 11, we understood what his silence meant. We knew you were sick. We saw you just a few days earlier when they brought you home from the hospital because you no longer wanted to be there. You just wanted to be at home, surrounded by those you love, comfortable and at peace. And, although you had come home, we knew that it didn’t mean you were better, but that it meant you wanted to be home when you went home. We knew. So, when my dad said the words I still remember to this day, the words I sometimes still play back in my mind over and over again, none of us were shocked.

What I don’t really remember is how it felt. I don’t remember if I cried right away. I don’t remember if I ever got mad at God for taking you. Or at you for leaving us. I don’t remember if I told any of my friends the next day at school. I don’t remember if I ever tried to deny it. I don’t remember if I actually completely understood what was happening. I remember I cried at your funeral. But, I wasn’t entirely sure if I was crying because I was sad or because everyone else was. I remember asking my mom why she was crying. You weren’t her father, and I thought that meant she shouldn’t be sad. I remember people sharing stories about your life. I remember seeing you in the casket. I even remember thinking you would sit up any minute and yell “Got you!” or something. I remember tears, and someone handing my grandmother a flag. But, I also remember there was laughter. And family. And food. And I remember thinking that is exactly what you would have wanted.

Mostly, I remember the music. I remember my dad quoting “Big House”- one of my all time favorite songs that I have grown to love even more since that day. I know that now, every time I listen to that song, I want to get up and dance- which is what you would want. But I also want to sit in a corner and think about you- which is something you would want as long as I wasn’t sad. I remember my oldest sister and cousins singing “It Is Well.” And I know that now, every time I hear that, I want to cry- which you would not want me to do. But, I also want to sing it with a beautiful passion as I bask in God’s amazing beauty- which is definitely what you would want me to do.

You would want me to jump up and shout “Come and go with me, to my Father’s house. It’s a big big house, with lots and lots of room.” You’d want me to pretend to eat food and throw a football as I exclaim “A big big table with lots and lots of food. A big big yard where we can play football.” And, I do it. Because I know you’d want me to. And, I know you’re doing it with me.

You’d want me to remember God’s faithfulness as I sing “When peace like a river attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.” You’d want me to raise my voice and sing with a passion as I echo “Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord oh my soul. It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul) it is well, it is well with my soul.” And I do. Because it is well with my soul.

And Boppa Guy, maybe that’s why today was so difficult. You see, I woke up with a painful twinge in my stomach and ache in my head. I thought maybe it was because I needed more sleep, or maybe it was a result of my current emotional state due to my recent heartbreak. But, then I remembered what day it was. January 18. And, then I knew. I knew the twinge was a reminder of the sadness of life but also that there’s “a big big table, with lots and lots of food.” I knew the ache was a reminder that pain exists, but that “whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.” And suddenly, I felt a sense of peace. You were reminding me that God’s present and that He, and you, love me. Because whatever my lot, you, Boppa, have taught me to say, “it is well with my soul.”

They played “It Is Well” at the end of a beautiful chapel service this afternoon. A service devoted to prayer. A service that I needed. A service that spoke to me so much at this point in my life. And, as I was walking out, I was already thinking of you, because you would have loved the service. And when they started playing “It Is Well,” I thought of you more. I thought about the fact that you have been gone for 11 years. Which means I have lived longer on this earth without you than I have with you. Which means I have few memories to remember you by, and each day my memory fades more and more. I thought about how I didn’t see you as I often as I would have liked, and I didn’t really spend time with you even when I was with you. I thought of all the memories we didn’t make. I thought about how I lost, or destroyed, or both, the rose I had gotten at your funeral. I thought about how there are few pictures of you and I together, but how I have a photo of you holding my doll- which at the time, was my most loved possession. The only thing I have of yours is a Bible that was given to me because you, like me, were hard of seeing. I thought about how you weren’t there to see me get baptized, or perform at my first Synchronized Swimming show, or compete at my first Bible Quizzing tournament, or graduate from high school. Or how you won’t be there to see me go on my first date, graduate from college,  or get married. You won’t be able to meet your great grandchildren or watch your children and grandchildren grow up.

But, I guess in a way, you were there, and you will always be there. Because I see you everywhere. I see you in grandma, who misses you so much, and in the artwork she does that would make you so happy and so proud. How each stroke of her brush or line of her pen somehow reflects you and your love for her. I see you in your children. In my uncle who shares your name. My aunt who was always daddy’s little girl and who never stops talking about you. My dad, who acts more like you everyday, with each made up song lyric and ridiculous story. How he insists that every time something is wrong it’s “because we don’t drink enough water.” I see you in my cousin, who never got to meet you, but who looks so much like you. I see you in your great granddaughter, who may have been born into unfortunate circumstances, but who shares your joy for life. Who is so sweet and innocent- you’d love her so much. I see you in my older sister, who acts so much like you. Whose photo we have, sitting next to you on the couch, both of you crossing your arms, copying each other’s face. I see you in my oldest sister who looks exactly like your daughter and who makes jokes exactly like you would. I even see you in the flowers, trees, wind, and rain. Because you’re always here.

And so, Boppa Guy, I am still not sure exactly why today hurts more than it has in any of the past 11 years. Maybe it’s because we talked about the death of loved ones in one of my classes yesterday. Maybe it’s because I heard that song in chapel. Maybe it’s because I was so young when it happened that I’m just now realizing how painful it is. Maybe my sadness doesn’t just come from missing you. But, whatever the reason is, I know that today, I missed you. Bur, I also know that you loved- love- me, and would be proud of me. Although, to be fair, you were always proud of all your grandchildren. But, you’d be proud of who I am, and who I am becoming. You’d be proud that I have 19 books of the Bible memorized- some of which I memorized using your Bible- because you always loved to share your love of the Bible. You’d be proud to know that I have that same hunger and love for God’s Word you had. You’d be proud to know that I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, where I’m going, how I’ll get there, or what will happen along the way, but I know the One who does. And so, I know I missed you. I know that I am struggling through life right now, my heart is broken, and I don’t know if it’ll ever be whole again. But I also know that you have taught me to say “it is well.”

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The Art of Healing

Healing is a long process. Whether it’s physical or emotional, healing takes time, energy, effort, trust and patience. It’s like trying to paint a materpiece. There are steps you must take to get it right, there are things you must do to make it beautiful, and there is time you must put into it. You may have setbacks and you may need to start over. But, once it’s all said and done, it’s an ultimately wonderful and amazingly beautiful thing. 

Thankfully, in my life, I haven’t experienced a lot of tremendous physical pain that required a lot of healing. I had eye surgery when I was about two- the healing process from which I hardly remember. I’ve pulled muscles, twisted ankles, bruised vessels, cut skin, and scraped elbows. And, two weeks ago, I had my wisdom teeth removed. 

Thankfully, in my life, I also haven’t had too many emotionally difficult and painful experiences that required a lot of healing. My grandfather and great grandma died when I was really  young- the healing process for which I didn’t really understand. I’ve had bad days, stressful weeks, difficult years, painful months, and confusing times. And, a month ago, I had my heart broken.

To sum up the story: girl meets guy, spends years falling for him, he becomes one of her greatest friends, and he eventually gets a girlfriend, effectively crushing her heart. You all know the story- it may have even happened to you at some point in your life. But healing from heartbreak, like wisdom teeth removal, takes time.

The day I got my wisdom teeth out, I was a mess. The anesthesia affected me so much, I was unable to physically walk to the car by myself. My mouth was numb. I felt like my tongue weighed 90 pounds. I was shivering and exhausted. I was forced to keep ice on my face, change my gauze every half hour, and I couldn’t go more than three hours without needing pain medicine.

When my heart broke, I was miserable. The news affected me so much, I was unable to eat or physically function properly. My mind was numb. I felt like my heart weighed a million pounds. I was dejected and exhausted. I was forced to drag myself out of bed, try to hide my feelings, and I couldn’t go more than five minutes without wanting to burst into tears.

The day after I got my wisdom teeth out, I had begun to heal. I was still exhausted and in pain. I laid on the couch for most of the day, watching Netflix. I still couldn’t eat real food because I was unable to chew. My cheeks had begun to swell, although only a little. I sill had to take pain medicine every three hours.  However, I had stopped bleeding, I was able to take a shower, and I no longer had to hold ice on my face. I was feeling much better.

Days after my heart broke, I had begun to heal. I was still shocked and in pain. I laid in bed longer than I needed to, thinking. I sometimes couldn’t eat because I was unable to process. My heart had begun to ache, although less than before. I still had to wipe my eyes a few times a day. However, I had started accepting, I was able to laugh, and I no longer fought so hard to get out of bed. I was feeling okay.

The third day after I got my wisdom teeth out, I thought I would be better. But, I woke up nauseous. I was starving, but I wasn’t able to keep my food down- at least not first thing in the morning. I was more exhausted than I had ever been, the antibiotics upset my stomach, the pain medicine made me feel like I was high, but the Advil wasn’t strong enough. Thankfully, I was eventually able to keep food down, get out of the house, and talk and laugh with my family like a normal human being. Even though I had to alternate between Tylenol and Advil every three hours because it still hurt.

A week after I got my heart broken, I thought I’d be okay. But, I woke up teary eyed. I was exhausted, but for some reason I couldn’t sleep- at least not without my mind wandering and wondering. I was more angry and dejected than I had ever been, the thought of it upset my stomach, the sadness and anger made me feel like I wasn’t myself, but the consoling words didn’t make me feel any better. Thankfully, I was eventually okay enough to get up, watch one of my favorite T.V shows that was also his, and fight some of the feelings of pain and anger. Even though the feelings still came and went occasionally because I was still hurt.

By the end of the week that I had my wisdom teeth out, I was feeling great. I was able to give a devotion and quizmaster for a Bible Quizzing tournament. I was still taking Advil and Tylenol every three hours, and the talking hurt my jaw. I could feel my stitches beginning to dissolve, leaving open holes in my mouth. By this point, the salt water rinse felt like more of an annoyance than a healing step. But, by the end of the day, I felt feverish and had a headache. I was exhausted again. But, the pain, except for in the lower left jaw, had mostly vanished.

By the end of the three weeks away, I was feeling great. I told myself I’d accepted it and my heart had healed. I was still struggling with the pain, and the thought of it made me cry. But, I could feel my heart healing, leaving open scars in its muscle. By this point, the talking felt more like a broken record than a step toward healing. But, by the end of the final day, I felt more broken than ever and had doubts about myself. I was sobbing and emotionally unstable again. But the anger, except for that which was directed at myself, had mostly vanished. 

And now, here I am, two weeks after my wisdom teeth have been removed, and I’m feeling great. I no longer need any Advil, and I am able to chew normally without pain. I can wear my retainer again without it hurting, and I can quizmaster all day without my jaw being sore and exhausted. I don’t have to cut my food into tiny pieces like a little kid. I feel great. But, I’m still missing a part of me.  

And now, here I am, a month after my heart was broken, and I’m not sure how I’m doing. I no longer struggle to get out of bed everyday, and I’m able to text him like nothing happened. I can listen to that song I’ve been avoiding without crying and I can have a normal conversation with him without wanting to cry or get mad. I don’t have to find as many excuses to not see him or talk to him. I feel okay. But, I’m still missing a part of me. 

My emotional pain, just like the pain of having my wisdom teeth removed, will eventually heal. But, like having my wisdom teeth removed, I’ll never be completely whole. Because some part of me will always be missing. It won’t be my wisdom, or my teeth, but rather, a piece of my own heart. 

So, unlike, the pain from getting my wisdom teeth out, this pain will never completely go away. My wisdom teeth took weeks to heal. My heartbreak may take months. I’ve gone through all the stages of grief, and I’ll go through them again. I still fight the pain, anger, sadness, and doubts that come with each day. But, I also find trust, hope, joy, and strength in God. I painfully wait for His plan to come to fruition in me and I wonder where He’s calling me, finding the waiting to be almost as painful as the pain itself. I find myself wondering, questioning, doubting, and hoping. I find myself taking small steps toward the long process of healing. 

Because yesterday, I sat next to him at dinner and didn’t feel like crying, getting angry, or walking away. Last week, I said hi to him and made small talk with him without feeling awkward. Today, I texted him something stupid and ridiculous that wasn’t related to making plans or wishing him a happy holiday. Tonight, I listened to that song I’d been avoiding because it always made me think of him. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to see them together without immediately feeling sad or nauseous or angry.

But, healing is a process. And it’ll take time. It’ll take longer. It’ll take days of acceptance followed by days of pain. Because, unlike physical healing, emotional healing is unpredictable and irrational. Because emotions are unpredictable and irrational. So, the steps may be small, and some days it may feel like I’m moving backwards, but it’s all part of the art of healing. It’s all part of its beauty and its pain. 

Because healing is a wonderful thing. And it, like art, takes time. But the art of it is, it’ll eventually happen. Sometimes, it may seem like it’s failing. And sometimes it may seem like its the most beautiful thing in the world. But, regardless of what it feels like or looks like, I just need to keep trusting, even when it’s hard. I need to keep quoting those verses over and over to myself everyday. I need to keep forcing myself to face it. I need to keep moving forward and moving on, or else I’ll never heal. 

Today, I wrote a Bible verse on my white board for encouragement- a thing I had stopped because I wasn’t sure I believed it. I wrote these words without crying or getting mad. I read some of the words I had already written without feeling the same anger and pain I did when I wrote them. I talked to my friend about my future wedding and didn’t imagine him in it or cry because I hoped he would be. My roommate and I have been praying together every night, and I’ve cried less as the days have gone on. I’ve been able to watch those much hated rom coms and not imagine it were us. I listened to my friend share his stories about love and was able to remember to focus on aiming my arrow instead of fighting against its pullback. I’m able to spend time alone without thinking about it. I’m beginning to be able to listen to all the songs that used to make me think of him. I’m able to watch shows on Netflix that I know he loves without crying. I can talk about mutual interests we have without thinking it must mean we are “meant to be.” I can pray without asking God why but instead asking Him what now. I can begin to look at the wreckage of my heartbreak and begin to think of reasons why, and glorify Him through it. I’m beginning to heal, and I feel almost as high as I did when I got my wisdom teeth out. 

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2017: My Year? 

Another year is over. We’re saying goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017. And many people have adamantly expressed their desires for 2016 to end because they thought it was a terrible year. There were deaths of loved ones, role models, and mentors, unnecessary acts of violence, crimes, wars, and any other terrible thing you can imagine. But, there was also joy, hope, peace, and beauty. And I’ve had my fair share of all of these this year. But, 2016 was not really my year. And, 2017 won’t be either. 

For me, 2016 was filled with so much. I celebrated 18 years of life. I took huge steps in order to grow my relationship with God. I discovered who I was, who I’m becoming, and who I think I someday may want to be. I found out who my real friends are and held on to them with all I had, while not being afraid to let others go. I graduated from high school. I went to Seattle for my last Bible Quizzing nationals ever as a Quizzer. I found my new favorite book and fell in love with its beauty. I went to Kenya on a life changing missions trip. I met some incredibly amazing new people. I started college, and survived my first semester with few emotional breakdowns. 

I also witnessed pain and loss. I watched my friends lose people important to them. I watched my sister lose a classmate and friend. I watched strangers lose loved ones. I watched the world cry along with the people that dwell in it. I experienced pain and heartbreak of my own. 

In 2016, I laughed, cried, and everything in between. I learned to play new games. I tried new foods. I expanded my knowledge of the things I love. I increased my understanding of the people I love. I memorized a new book of the Bible. I read new literature. I discovered more about myself. But, 2016 was definitely not my year. 

At the beginning of the year, I was a hopeful, wishful, beautiful, independent, struggling, reflective, girl. And now, I’m still all those things. But life has also hit me hard with some truths. And so, I’ve been forced to be all those things, as well as real, strong, and resilient. Because 2016 was a rough year. I watched a 5 year long hope of mine come crashing down around me. I didn’t reach all the goals I had set for myself before I graduated, or turned 18, or left Quizzing. I didn’t follow many of the promises I had made to myself at this time last year. I slept longer than I should have, but also not as long as I needed to. I procrastinated more than I should have. And maybe it’s because I’m a slightly cynical, hopeful, dream filled realist. Or, maybe it’s because the ending to the year was not what I had imagined. Maybe it’s because I spent the better part of the last month in pain, finally thinking I’d gotten over it, just to discover the tears flowing again at the most inopportune and  irrelevant times. Or maybe it’s because I started the year in love with myself and totally confident in who I am, and I’ve ended it fluctuating daily between hating myself and loving myself, and hating myself for hating myself, but never really knowing why I’m feeling either way. But, whatever the reasons are, I know 2016 wasn’t my year. And I guarantee 2017 won’t be either. 

But, that’s not because 2017 will  be terrible. And it wasn’t because 2016 was terrible. It’s just because they’re not really mine. My life, my time, and everything I am and do don’t belong to me. They belong to God. They’re His. And I’m going to live this year, and live my life, like I believe that. Truely believe that. 

Because, this year, as in many years passed, I took parts of my life in my own hands. I made choices for myself and decided that because my life belonged to God, He would follow through with my plans. Instead, I need to let God make the choices and follow what He says because I belong to Him. 

2017 will be filled with heartbreak. It started out with me almost crying at 1 am, so, yeah, it’s going to hurt. But, it’s also going to be filled with so much love and joy. Because 2016 ended with me in a room with those I love most, laughing until there were tears. It’ll be amazing. I’ll do thigs I’d never imagined were possible. I’ll discover new things about myself and others. I’ll spread love and joy. I’ll be a light. I’ll trust God through all of it. I’ll go where He tells me and do what He desires. Because 2017 is not going to be my year. 

As my sister said, “I don’t really understand New Years’. I mean, it’s not like anything special happens, you just wake up and it’s tomorrow. It’s not any different of a day than any other day.” And she’s right: it’s not. But, it is a metaphorical restart. A sort of analogy of becoming a new person. And making 2017 your year is all the rage. But, it is really just tomorrow. It’s just another 365 days, that really could have started and ended at any time. January 1 isn’t some special date. It’s just tomorrow. Another day to act like this year isn’t your year. Because it’s God’s. He’s just waiting for you to recognize that and listen to His wonderful plan for your year, and for your life. 

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Love Struck? Or, Love’s Truck?

Life is a journey. It’s like a road. There are twists and turns, ups and downs, and smooth patches and potholes. And sometimes, you’re standing on the road, happy, energetic, ready to run to the finish. But, sometimes, you’re standing on the road dejected, beaten down, unable to take another step in any direction. Sometimes, a truck hits you out of nowhere. Or, maybe not out of nowhere.

You see, despite my visual impairment, I saw the truck coming. It was coming at me, slowly at first, but gaining more speed with each day. Its lights were shining and its horn was blasting. And, I tried to get out of its way, I did but, I didn’t. Or, at least I didn’t get completely out of its way. I may have mostly jumped out of its way. Or, convinced myself I still had time to move. Or, I may have said I was out of the way in my mind, but my body wasn’t actually listening. Whatever the reason may be, I got hit. Hard. And it hurt.

Because I was semi-prepared (haha get it. Semi-prepared, semi-truck). But, I guess I had always held out a little bit of hope that I wouldn’t have to move out of the way. That the truck would prove not to be a truck, but to be my ride. My vehicle through the next part of my journey. But, surprise, it wasn’t. It was a truck. And it hit me. Crushed me. I had told myself I was braced for impact, but, I didn’t brace myself hard enough, thinking the impact would never actually come.

And now, here I am, in the middle of the road, dejected, beaten down, and unable, unwilling, to move. My physical wounds are not nearly as painful as the emotional ones. Because it hurt. And, ever since the impact, I’ve asked myself so many times how I could be so stupid, how I could have such a false hope, how I could think the truck wasn’t going to hit me. I wondered if I had been more obvious about my presence if the driver would have seen me.

And so, here I am, laying in the middle of the road. Watching my life play out. Watching my hopes and dreams being achieved by another. Watching my life, as if a movie, except I am no longer the main character. This life I had planned for myself, this life I had hoped for myself, happening, but happening to someone else.

Because, I am “actually a pretty great person.” But, maybe, I’m not good enough. Because, apparently my years of trust, of openness, were not what I thought they were. Maybe my openness was scaring him away. Maybe I wasn’t obvious about how it was that I felt. But, whatever, the reason, I now have to learn to get over the impact. And five, no, maybe seven, years of bracing myself for impact while simultaneously hoping it wouldn’t come made me think I would be okay. There were signs along the road. Signs which I read to mean that I wouldn’t have to brace myself for impact. And, eventually the signs changed, and I could tell I was probably misinterpreting them, but I pretended I wasn’t anyway. Because I’d have seen the truck. I’d have been able to see the signs. But, then again, I am blind.

And, so, again, here I am. At a crossroad. Laying here. Slowly but surely getting up. Ready to stand. Unsure how to begin. Unsure how to pull myself up and stand amidst the pain. But, I’m figuring it out. I’m doing what I can. I’m filling up word documents and journal pages with words. With emotions. I’m taking in air; despite how much it might hurt. I’m figuring out how I’ll stand up, crawl around the wreckage I left behind, and move on. And, I’ll figure it out eventually. It may just take a while. Because processing a heartbreak seven years in the making is tough. Watching my five year long dreams, hopes, and wishes come crashing down around me hurts.

So, I am doing what needs to be done. I’m writing. I’m shedding tears. I’m talking. I’m giving myself space. I’m sitting in the bathroom while the DJ plays one of my favorite songs because I just can’t bear to hear it. I’m listening to that one song on repeat. I’m avoiding being the one to initiate contact. And, for a while, I’m avoiding some of the things I used to love because he loves them too. But, I’ll come around eventually. It may just take a few weeks, or months. Hopefully not years. Because I am determined not to let this setback, this heartbreak, set me back.

So, maybe I’ll be less open to people. Maybe I’ll be more open. Maybe I’ll be more cautious about who I tell my deepest intimate secrets to, because maybe I’m worried it’ll scare them away. Maybe I’m worried they’ll think I’m too much to handle. Maybe I won’t change anything. I don’t know. I know that I’ll survive. I know that it’ll take a while to get over it. I know that I am trying my best. I know that I don’t want to let this get to me, even though that is incredibly difficult not to do. I know that there will be tough days, and tough conversations, in the future.

But, I know that God has an amazing plan. And that this heartbreak is just a bump in the road of His amazing plan. And, for now, even though it still hurts, and there are still sores, I’m finding good in the small things. I’m finding things to be thankful for despite the pain. The friend who walks across campus at one in the morning, in the snow, alone, just to sit with you, talk, cry, vent, and throw some pillows. The friends who sit with you in a bathroom stall because you can’t be out there with all the people, not yet. The family who drove to school to pick you up, take you home for dinner, and listened to you share the news. Who were upset with you, and for you, but who also gave you great advice as to how to get up and move on.

The sister who, despite the fact that you weren’t sure if you wanted to tell her, or even how to tell her, allowed you to come to her room and watch a movie. Who didn’t ask to talk about it, but instead just sat and watched a movie, trying to make you laugh. And, who used her million and a half flex dollars to buy you some mozzarella sticks. I’m finding joy in the little things. And being thankful for the small things. And, I’m waiting for the day that I can look back on the wreckage and prove to myself that I can get over it. That I can survive. That I can thrive.

“I remember when we met, I was young and innocent
And they told me you were all a girl could need
So I wrapped my life around you, I felt safe cause I had found you
But security’s become my enemy
You’re the only road I’ve ever known, but it’s time to move on

Cause the truth is I’m finding that it might not go my way
If I hold this life too tightly, my heart would break
And it’s time to say goodbye to everything I’ve ever known
But I choose freedom so this is me letting you go”

– Letting You Go, Jenny Simmons

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Avoiding Thanksgiving Love

Thanksgiving is almost here. Which means turkey, pumpkin pie, family, football, Christmas decorating, and, for those of you who are young and single, endless questions about your love life. And, if you’re anything like me, you wish people would stop asking you about your love life. Because it probably doesn’t exist. Or, like me, you have been hung up on the same guy for more years than you’d like to admit, and you wish he would just get off the couch and ask you out already. While, at the same time, wishing he wouldn’t because that’s terrifying. But, whatever your situation is, I know you don’t want all those questions. So, here are some of the best ways to avoid annoying, non-strop questions.

If you want the love questions to stop completely, tell your family you don’t have time for a love life. Because you’re too busy studying quantum mechanics. Then, you’ll sound super smart and impressive. Tell them you’re waiting until you know more about it so you can impress all the guys by talking about it. Or, say that, like me, your true love is Chemistry so you don’t need a boyfriend unless he is an atom of xenon. But, if your family is anything like my family, they will probably also ask you what quantum mechanics is, once they’re done questioning you about your love life. If that happens, you may be out of luck. Unless you know what quantum mechanics is. And if you don’t, just use a bunch of Chemistry terms like orbitals, electron densities, and hybridization, and you’re golden. Eventually they’ll give up and move on.

If you want to make it awkward and embarrassing for others, ask your siblings about their love life. I have two older sisters, so this technique works pretty well, because I just ask them. And they, being older than I am, are more likely to have a boyfriend, and are closer to the age where people, myself included, feel it appropriate to roast them about not having one. So, I just turn the question at them, and they get to feel awkward about it. Because my parents want grand kids, and they have not hesitated to let us know that. But, I’m way too young for that. So, I make my older sisters answer the awkward questions about grand kids and their chances of arrival within the next decade. If you don’t have any older siblings, or none who are actually single, ask your younger siblings. Nothing is cuter than asking an elementary school kid who they like. And the high school age siblings love it when they are asked. Because all their friends are in relationships and they love felling insecure about it, especially at home.

If you don’t have any siblings, or cousins, to place the awkwardness on, you could just make up some ridiculous story. Like seriously, the more pathetic the better. Talk about that one girl you saw while walking to class that one day that you made awkward eye contact with. How you have fallen head over heels in love with her, but you don’t know her name. How she made your heart stop when you looked at her from across the pathway. How you can’t stop thinking of her. How you think it’s love at first sight. Make it sound pathetic. Maybe add some tears. They’ll think you’re crazy and probably leave you alone. Or put you in a mental institution. Either way, you’re free. If you’re a guy, you could tell them you have a whole line of girls waiting for you to propose. You just have to make them suffer a little more before you make up your mind. If, like me, you’re a girl, you could talk about how you have a bunch of guys trying to pursue you. But, you’re making them fight to the death to earn your heart. Like the knights of medieval times.

Or, you could be openly honest. Seriously, you may be surprised about their reaction. Tell them about that girl you like and how you might finally get the courage to ask her out. How she makes you feel, but how you’re unsure about how she feels. They may be able to give you some great advice. Tell them about that guy you’ve liked for years and how you’ve tried to throw subtle hints at him, but you’ve never been good at throwing. Maybe they’ll help you brush up on your throwing skills. Tell them how he makes you laugh, or about his great character. They may be able to help you out. Or, if they are like my family, they will mock you. And tell you “they told you so.” And start rooting for you, and force you to, probably falsely, get your hopes up. They’ll tell you they totally called it, but that it’s not a bad thing. That he’s a good person. That you should get your hopes up. They should be supportive, for the most part. I hope.

If worse comes to worse, you could always divert the conversation to politics?? Because that’s always a great idea.

But, regardless of however you choose to handle the awkward love questions, remember to be thankful. Be thankful for love. Be thankful that love can permeate your life, by family and by friends. Be thankful for what you have been given by those who love you. Be thankful that Love himself died for you. And, remember to love.

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Love’s Fleeting Crush

I am not a love expert. I still believe in cooties and think that boyfriends can be picked up at the local Boyfriends R Us. I have no idea how to actually get one. Like, how is a guy supposed to know if I like him? How am I supposed to let him know without taking away my right to be pursued and his duty to pursue? How am I supposed to know how he feels about me and if it is even worth waiting for him to pursue me? Also, once I get a boyfriend, what do I even do with that? How often does he need to be fed? Am I expected to hang out with him? Would he be mad if I told him his dog is cuter than him? Am I supposed to tell him he’s cute? Seriously, I have no idea. Yet, for some strange, inexplicable reason, a lot of my friends come to me for advice on guys. And here’s the thing- I make it all up. I have no idea what I am talking about, which is true for most things anyway. But, they are allowing me to play with their feelings. To put their emotions to the test and advise them on how to handle their heart. Why? I honestly have no idea. They should feel as safe with me handling their heart and they should with me flying a plane.

You see, I have liked a total of three guys in my life- two of whom shouldn’t even count because I was under the age of 12. And the other one of whom should probably also not count because it started when I was 12, and I’m pretty sure I gave him more reasons than not to think I’m stupid. And I spent so long denying it that I’m not actually completely sure when it started. So, I’m definitely not the person they should be asking. Because I am nothing close to an expert. But, I am an expert on my own experience with love. So, I can tell you that it has been a crushing experience.

My first crush was a boy I met in kindergarten. We were friends, in the sense that everyone in our small class of 15 were friends, even though I claimed I hated him. And I assured my parents that I actually hated him, and I convinced myself that he hated me. But, they assured me that girls don’t talk so much about guys they hate. And, despite all the attempted convincing to the contrary, I did like him. As much as a 5-year old girl can like a boy. But I locked my heart as best I knew how. And I had feelings for him throughout most of elementary school. Until one day, in fifth grade, he asked me out. And I, still trying to convince myself I hated him, rejected him in the most graceful way an 11- year old socially awkward kid can. And he said it was okay, because it was a joke and his friends just dared him to ask me out. He didn’t actually mean it. And boy, that hurt a little. He broke my little fifth grade heart because I had guarded it so hard and convinced myself I didn’t want him to have it. And once he had a chance at having it, I crushed it.
My second crush happened the next year, in sixth grade. And, while I still wasn’t sure if I had completely gotten over my elementary school crush, I had begun to fall for him. As much as an 11-year old can fall for a guy she just met. I thought he was cute. In fact, I thought he looked like a teddy bear. And I thought that the two of us may have an actual chance. If we could just hold on for a few years. And, because I have never been good at hiding my crush from those I am close to, everyone knew. And they thought that maybe he liked me too. And, maybe he did. I don’t know. But, I know it eventually ended. For whatever reason. Probably because my feelings and hormones were so fleeting and fluctuating. Or maybe because I stopped seeing him often. Or maybe because my third crush came in and crushed my 12- year old dream.
My third, and last, crush started from the day I met him. But, I didn’t really know what it was at first. Because it felt more like a strange obsession, a desire to be around him. And my feelings for him began while my feelings for the others were still fading, but these were different. I didn’t recognize the recognizable feeling at first. Eventually, I began to, but I hoped denying them would make them go away, because I never thought we’d stand a chance. That he’d never pick me. But, eventually, young 15-year old me came to terms with my feelings. I no longer denied them, at least not to myself. And, I was still terrible at hiding my crush, so, people eventually found out, mostly because 16-year old me could no longer hold it in. But, some people began rooting for us. And I was terrified nothing would happen and we’d all be crushed.

I got over my first crush. We became friends, and all is well. But, there was a point, in eighth grade, where I thought he had a girlfriend, or at least I thought she was acting like his girlfriend. And, I was a little crushed. Even though I had gotten over him. Because, somewhere, deep down, a part of me was still holding on to him. A small part of me still belonged to him. Because I had given him something, and I never asked for it back. I never wanted it back. And, he still has it, and always will. Because your first love, no matter how small, ridiculous, or juvenile it is, always keeps a part of you.
I got over my second crush. We stopped seeing each other often, and we haven’t had a real conversation in years. Eventually Facebook told me he got a girlfriend. And, I was a little crushed. Because he too had a small part of me. Because I got over him, but he was still my first hope. The first one I had thought would become something. The moments I had with him are memories I will always have, even if they never became anything. And even if they were over exaggerated in my own mind. Now, they are just recordings of an old tape whose conclusion I will never see. A movie of “what ifs.” And your first hope, like your first love, always keeps a part of you. Except this time, I also got to keep a part of him.
My last crush I have not yet gotten over. And I have no idea if he has come to terms with his feelings, or what his feelings even are. I have kept my guarded 5- year old heart locked, but I have given him the key. I’ve allowed him a way in. I just don’t know if he knows it, or if he wants to ever use it. And if he doesn’t, I’ll eventually get over it, but not without my heart cracking a little. Because changing the lock will leave some scars. And I have kept most of my 12-year old dream. It just now involves a different person. And there are still some parts 12-year old me will always hold that 16-year old me will never share. And 18-year old me will always have these beautiful feelings that maybe a future me won’t have. Because, even though he is not my first crush, or my first love, or my first hope, he is my first joy. He’s the first one who makes my heart flutter when I see his name light up my phone screen, or gives my stomach butterflies when I see his smile. But, he’s also the first one where I feel safe. Where I can genuinely be myself and feel secure. Where I know I’ll be okay, regardless of whether he uses 5-year old me’s key, becomes a part of 12-year old me’s dreams, and proves 16-year old me right, or not. But, he, too, will always be a part of me, because he was my first joy. Except this time, I don’t know how it’s going to end.

And maybe that’s why they are called crushes. Maybe it’s because they can crush your soul. They can hurt you, and crack you into a million tiny pieces, that can eventually be fixed, but will always be a part of you. Or maybe it’s because, like the soda, they can make your heart rush. They can make you bubbly and excited. Maybe it’s because they are like the candy game. Sweet and safe, yet addicting and nerve-wracking. And none of this is necessarily their fault. It’s just the nature of crushes.
So, clearly, I am not a love expert. You should definitely not come to me for love advice. Because, the best I can give you is, when in doubt, use a cheesy pick-up line sprinkled with puns. Make a joke about some science concept, historical figure, literary character, mathematical equation, or otherwise nerdy topic. Or, you could always grab a can of cherry crush, put it on his head and say, “I have a crush on you.” Or, maybe those are not good ideas. I don’t know. All I know is, they’d probably work on me.
But, in all seriousness, the best advice I can give you is this: be patient. Wait on God. Because guys are stupid and crushes are painful. But God crushes all insecurities and pain. And praying to Him about him is the best thing you could do for your fragile heart that’s prone to crushes. And one day, He’ll send someone who was worth all the pain, the waiting, and the crushes.

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